FSI modeling of the reefed stages and disreefing of the Orion spacecraft parachutes

Kenji Takizawa*, Tayfun E. Tezduyar, Cody Boswell, Ryan Kolesar, Kenneth Montel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


Orion spacecraft main and drogue parachutes are used in multiple stages, starting with a “reefed” stage where a cable along the parachute skirt constrains the diameter to be less than the diameter in the subsequent stage. After a period of time during the descent, the cable is cut and the parachute “disreefs” (i.e. expands) to the next stage. Fluid–structure interaction (FSI) modeling of the reefed stages and disreefing involve computational challenges beyond those in FSI modeling of fully-open spacecraft parachutes. These additional challenges are created by the increased geometric complexities and by the rapid changes in the parachute geometry during disreefing. The computational challenges are further increased because of the added geometric porosity of the latest design of the Orion spacecraft main parachutes. The “windows” created by the removal of panels compound the geometric and flow complexity. That is because the Homogenized Modeling of Geometric Porosity, introduced to deal with the flow through the hundreds of gaps and slits involved in the construction of spacecraft parachutes, cannot accurately model the flow through the windows, which needs to be actually resolved during the FSI computation. In parachute FSI computations, the resolved geometric porosity is significantly more challenging than the modeled geometric porosity, especially in computing the reefed stages and disreefing. Orion spacecraft main and drogue parachutes will both have three stages, with computation of the Stage 1 shape and disreefing from Stage 1 to Stage 2 for the main parachute being the most challenging because of the lowest “reefing ratio” (the ratio of the reefed skirt diameter to the nominal diameter). We present the special modeling techniques and strategies we devised to address the computational challenges encountered in FSI modeling of the reefed stages and disreefing of the main and drogue parachutes. We report, for a single parachute, FSI computation of both reefed stages and both disreefing events for both the main and drogue parachutes. In the case of the main parachute, we also report, for a 2-parachute cluster, FSI computation of the disreefing from Stage 2 to Stage 3. With results from these computations, we demonstrate that we have to a great extent overcome one of the most formidable challenges in FSI modeling of spacecraft parachutes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1203-1220
Number of pages18
JournalComputational Mechanics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Oct 8


  • Fluid–structure interaction
  • Modeled geometric porosity
  • Orion drogue parachutes
  • Orion main parachutes
  • Orion spacecraft parachutes
  • Parachute disreefing
  • Parachute reefed stages
  • Resolved geometric porosity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


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